Buongiorno! Welcome to Italy and the iconic city of Venice. If you arrive early, take some time to get lost in Venice's narrow cobblestone streets and spacious piazzas, crossing the tiny bridges to find shops, markets, galleries, churches and stunning buildings. Stroll past St Mark’s Square, the Campanile and the Doges Palace. Cross the Rialto and admire the Bridge of Sighs. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting tonight at 6pm. Please ask reception to confirm the time and place of your meeting. Have your insurance details and next of kin information on hand for collection by your leader. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. Afterwards, head out for a welcome aperitivo - the spritz and the bellini are local favourites. Venice's distinctive culinary heritage goes back to ancient times and features rich risottos, saline baccala (salted cod) and creamy polenta. If you're hungry, follow your leader to an atmospheric restaurant for your first introduction to Venetian flavours.
It's an early start today. Walk down to the canals and watch farmers unload their produce from canal boats, ready to be sold at Venice's famous Rialto markets. This tradition is more than 1,000 years old. Next, swing past the fish market, where the catch of the day might come direct from the Venetian lagoon, the enclosed bay of the Adriatic Sea in which the city of Venice is situated. Finish with an Italian cafe alongside the market. You'll also be treated to a specialty dessert of the region, tiramisu. The afternoon is free for your own exploration. In the evening, discover the Venetian answer to tapas on a 'cicchetti' crawl through the city's fabulous bacari (wine bars). Snacking is an important pastime in Venice, with many people stopping for cicchetti (small bites) both before and after meals. Don't forget to try a 'spritz'. This mix of white wine, Campari or Aperol and soda water is a popular accompaniment to wash down the delicious cicchetti.
Travel to Bologna by train (approximately 2 hours). Bologna's culinary claim to fame is a significant one, thanks to the ragu alla bolognese. Home of tagliatelle, mortadella and a range of other cured meats and salamis, Bologna, along with the surrounding Emilia Romagna region, is a bonafide food mecca. On arrival, drop your bags at the hotel then get out and acquaint yourself with this city of beautiful old terracotta buildings and lively streets. Later in the day you'll discover the 'real food' of Bologna, with a hands on-cooking class in the fine art of pasta-making. Feast on your handiwork over dinner.
Enjoy a day trip to discover the flavours of the renowned Emilia Romagna region. Visit a factory dedicated to the production of one of Italy's most coveted culinary exports – the mighty Parmigiano Reggiano. Get an insight into how this cheese is made, then enjoy a tasting. Continue to the town of Modena (approximately 1 hour) and visit an acetaia, a house where the family produce fine aged Modena balsamic vinegar in the attic. You'll see how the vinegar is aged in barrels made from different woods, and is never less than 12 years old (often well over 25). Taste it and learn the difference between the real stuff and the mass-produced kind. Over lunch, sample some of the town's other specialties: tortellini, or, for the adventurous, zampone (stuffed pig's trotter). Lambrusco, the town's famed sparkling red, makes for a fine accompaniment. Take some time to stroll around this delightful town, admire the Palazzo Ducale and, if you're still hungry, ask your leader about the great specialty panini shop in the market. Return to Bologna in the late afternoon.
Travel by train and taxi (approximately 3 hours) to the village of Pancole, located in the heart of Tuscany between Florence and Siena. The region is renowned for a cuisine that celebrates simplicity and the bounty of locally grown produce in hearty, rustic dishes. Pecorino cheese, farro (an ancient grain) and artisanal cured meats like lardo di Colonnata are just some of the many local ingredients you can expect to indulge in during your stay. Your accommodation is a traditional Tuscan farmhouse, located about 7kms from the enchanting village of San Gimignano. The farmhouse is surrounded by vineyards and olive trees from which the family has been producing excellent wine and olive oil by organic methods for over fifty years. Enjoy a guided walk through the vineyards and cellars of the estate, followed by a tasting of some signature Tuscan wines. The wine tasting will be accompanied by some delicious cheeses, oilve oil and bruschetta.
Take a walk (approximately 1.5 hours; 7 kilometres) along a portion of the Via Francigena, the major pilgrimage route to Rome during the Middle Ages. The walk is on easy terrain, although comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Explore the medieval walled town of San Gimignano. San Gimignano is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is often called the 'Town of Fine Towers' due to the preservation of a number of impressive 'torre' or tower houses within its walls. The town is also known for its white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, produced from the ancient variety of Vernaccia grape which is grown on the surrounding sandstone hillsides. If you're keen to learn more, there is an informative wine museum located in the town. Before returning, stop past an award-winning gelateria, where intriguing flavours like Gorgonzola cheese and walnuts are waiting to be tasted. Spend the rest of your time exploring the walking paths around the farm or, weather permitting, relaxing by the pool, enjoying beautiful views of the Tuscan countryside.
Today jump on a train to Rome. Take a guided food expedition through the historical city centre of Rome. Walk past the Pantheon, Navona Square, Campo del Fiori, the Jewish Ghetto and Trastevere building up an appetite for the food stops along the way. Sample a robust Italian espresso in a charming, historical cafeteria. Pushing on through the streets, take the chance to savour some delicious semifreddo for a cold, sweet treat; tuck in to doughy mortadella-garnished pizzas; sample pecorino cheese and wash it down with a glass of frascati. A tasting of fried fish with artichoke and other vegetables awaits, all wrapped up with some sweet kranz (Jewish cake) for desert. After an afternoon of eating (and an ever fuller belly), toast the end of this adventure with your new friends. The Foodie walk will be approximately 3 hours in duration so bring comfortable walking shoes.
Today is free time to explore historic Rome. There are so many things to do in Rome – the Colosseum, the Forum, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, Via Condotti, Piazza Venezia, the Vatican City and St Peter's Basilica. Don’t forget to do as the Romans do and sip an espresso at one of the tiny streetside cafes and sample the many flavours of gelato that colour the city. For those captivated by the 'Eternal City', throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain to ensure a return visit to Rome. Notes: Check the Vatican website (vatican.va) for updated information on when you can visit. Tickets for the Vatican Museum can be booked online at: biglietteriamusei.vatican.va/musei/tickets/do. Alternatively, the Galleria Borghese can be booked online at: galleriaborghese.it/borghese/en/einfo.htm. The Vatican Museum is closed on some days, including most Sundays. On the last Sunday of the month, it's open and free (but expect large crowds). Later today there will be a welcome meeting where you can meet any new members of the group.As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. After the meeting, get to know your fellow foodie travellers over a bowl of pasta in the rione (area) of Monti, home to some of the city's most famous monuments.
Swap the city for the coast with a morning private transfer to the small fishing village of Fossacesia (approximately 3 hours), which sits nestled between the mouth of the Sangro River and the Adriatic Sea along the Trabocchi Coast. Spend some time relaxing in the Italian sunshine or head down to the beach. In the late afternoon, take part in a cooking class and learn the secrets to authentic Abruzzo cuisine – such as mussels stuffed with breadcrumbs, garlic and parsley. Dishes will change with the seasons. Enjoy an elevated view of the water at a dinner atop a converted trabocco fishing platform – just make sure to save room for dessert!
Drive to the World Heritage-listed city of Alberobello (approximately 4 hours), famous for its trulli (white-washed, conical-roofed houses). On the way, stop for a tasting of fresh burrata (cheese made from mozzarella and cream) and a visit to an olive press. Arrive by early afternoon and spend the rest of the day exploring Alberobello. The cuisine of the region is simple, fresh produce which is some of the tastiest in all of Italy. The evening is free time, perhaps check out a local favourite called Trulli and Puglia Wine Bar or find your own food adventure among the trullos.
Travel from Alberobello into the neighboring region of Basilicata, and the striking city of Matera (approximately 1.5 hours). On the way, stop at Laterza, a historical town renowned for its many crevices and caves. The name of the town even means 'a hiding place'. Discover a celebrated family-owned artisanal bakery and learn about the significance of Laterza bread. Next, visit a masseria (country estate) to indulge in a primitivo wine tasting followed by a bevy of classic Apulian dishes. Arrive in Matera by late afternoon. For the next 2 nights we stay in a traditional Sassi cave. Sassi is an area of extraordinary dwellings, half-carved and half-built from the surrounding tufo (tuff) rock, in which people have been living since Palaeolithic times.
Step back in time on a guided walking tour of ancient Matera – a town that's been occupied for 9,000 years. It's one of the oldest cities in existence and its drawcard is the stunning sassi – stone houses formed from natural grottoes and tufo cliffs overlooking a dramatic gorge. The rest of the day is free for you to explore. Perhaps choose to take another cooking class learning to prepare orecchiette, the signature pasta of the region. In the evening, meet up with your fellow travellers to sample some herbaceous Italian liqueurs.
Point the compass west today and head towards the Campania region and Sorrento (approximately 5 hours). An orientation walk is the perfect introduction to this beautiful place, with a refreshing limoncello tasting your reward after pounding the cobblestones. The evening is yours to take at your leisure, so why not soak up the beauty of this location with dinner by the water.
The colourful streets and turquoise port of Sorrento are the perfect place for a leisurely stroll. The morning is free to explore, so take a wander past quaint little shops selling ceramics and lacework, or take up a class in gelato-making. Alternatively, simply order up a scoop or two served straight from a stainless steel pozzetti (the original Italian way). In the late afternoon there is one final cooking class learning to prepare a southern Italian classic – pizza – in a trattoria. Settle in for a delicious farewell dinner with the group.
Your southern Italian food adventure comes to an end today. Extra accommodation in Sorrento can be arranged at the time of booking. If you're looking for onward travel, Sorrento is only a short ferry or train ride to Naples (approximately 1.5 hours). Alternatively catch a bus or train to tale in Pompeii and brooding Mount Vesuvius (approximately 40 minutes). Rome is also an easy train ride away.